Canada and chemical warfare 1939-1945
From 1939 to 1942 Canada, allied to the United Kingdom, prepared to defend itself against chemical attack by Nazi Germany. The Canadian preparations represented one of Canada’s many contributions to the cause of the British Commonwealth, and may have been used as one method to counter British requests for additional ground troops. After the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Canada became part of an alliance with the United States and the United Kingdom. Canadian chemical warfare preparations went from defensive to offensive following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into the war. The chemical warfare preparations included preparation and testing of toxic gases and smokes, smoke screening and flame weapons. One of the most important Canadian contributions to the alliance was the establishment of the Suffield Field Experimental Station in Alberta. This base was particularly useful in carrying out chemical weapon trials, during which approximately 2000 Canadian citizens and soldiers were exposed to toxic gases. At the beginning of the war chemical warfare volunteers were completely covered in protective clothing except for a patch to allow for controlled chemical burns. But by 1942 Suffield staff was given permission to rewrite the regulations for the trials, and volunteers often received significant chemical injuries, including to the eyes. It would appear that the full body of knowledge available to the wartime scientists, especially information relevant to the long-term health outcomes of exposure to vesicant agents, was not applied in the conduct of the human experimentation.
Canada, chemical warfare, mustard gas, Suffield
Master of Arts (M.A.)